That’s the question asked by Salon.com writer Louis Bayard in his piece on Phil Zuckerman’s Society without God (NYU Press 2008).
As for faith being the cornerstone of personal morality, Zuckerman would remind us that Scandinavians rank near the top in charitable giving to poor nations, that their murder rate is among the lowest in the world and that the safety net they’ve created for their poorest citizens puts the U.S. welfare state to shame. And all this has been accomplished without God breathing down anyone’s neck.
Indeed, the baldly secular outlook Scandinavians take toward their own deaths rivals Zeno for stoicism. “I think we will be earth, you know,” a Danish woman tells Zuckerman. “I don’t think anything will happen.” “It is as it is,” says a 75-year-old Stockholm publisher. “You just have to live every day,” says a 43-year-old father of two, “and make nice days.”
“You can do whatever you want,” says one Danish man, “just you keep it to yourself.” “In Denmark,” a pastor remarks, “the word ‘God’ is one of the most embarrassing words you can say. You would rather go naked through the city than talk about God.”